Craig Counsell leaving the Milwaukee Brewers to manage elsewhere was possible after the team allowed his contract to expire and for him to explore other opportunities. But leaving to manage the intradivisional rival Chicago Cubs? That came as a surprise.
While Counsell has joined the Cubs on a reported five-year, $40 million contract, his old team is still coming to terms with the sudden turn of a events.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Brewers ace Corbin Burnes said. “I think my reaction is the same as everyone in the organization and the fan base. We’re just shocked initially.”
“I’m still processing it, too,” said longtime Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff. “I was not expecting the Cubs.”
Brewers team owner Mark Attanasio said he thought Counsell was kidding him when he was informed of the decision. But despite the shocking departure, he doesn't believe Counsell abandoned the team.
"Definitely not betrayed," he said. "I'm so high on what we have that I can't imagine somebody wanting to be somewhere else. ... Our goal for our family is for me and my sons to be the stewards for the community for a long time, and then hopefully past 2050, someone else will have the same emotion for the team, the community that's very special."
Attanasio said a contract offer was presented to Counsell that would've made him the highest-paid MLB manager. He did not say whether the Brewers matched the Cubs' offer.
As the final weeks of the 2023 MLB season came to an end, Counsell's future was a big topic. The prevailing thought was that he would either remain with the Brewers or move on to the New York Mets, who were looking for a replacement after firing Buck Showalter. (They ended up hiring New York Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza.) But the Cubs, who had to dismiss manager David Ross after four seasons? That seemed to come out of nowhere.
Counsell finishes with a 707-625 record over nine seasons with the Brewers, with three NL Central division titles and five playoff appearances.
"Craig was definitely a key part of our success," Attanasio said. "But if I had to list all the reasons we're successful, we'd be here another half-hour. ... We're committed to finding a manager who can be as successful as Craig."